“What are you doing?”
Deborah’s husband pauses halfway through lifting the full plastic bag out of the bin beneath the sink. “Putting the bins out. Bin collection on Thursday, right?”
Deborah holds up a hand, palm out. An error has been made. As she sticks up five fingers to represent the words of the sentence, he repeats himself in a flat, stilted monotone. “Bin… collection… on… Thursday-“
Deborah is shaking her head now, holding her index finger.
A look of realisation dawns on Ben’s face. “Friday,” he says, letting the plastic bag fall back into the bin.
Deborah gives him a double thumbs-up and a high five. As he turns to walk out of the kitchen, she gives a meaningful cough. Another mistake has been made, but what?
Luckily, there is no need for confusion. Deborah walks to the cupboard door where there is a chart representing different errors. Will she point to the washing up bowl full of dirty dishes? Or the man with his tongue hanging out, a dotted line connecting his eyes to the chest of a passing woman? Will she point to the feet with wavy green lines representing odour? No. This time she points to the eyes with upraised pupils and Ben understands. While leaving the kitchen, he rolled his eyes.
Since Deborah began her new regime of using ESL error correction techniques around the house, she has plenty of methods to let Ben know where he’s going wrong, but how does he feel about it?
“I do feel a little patronised sometimes,” he tells us in the hallway, “my friends all find Debbie a bit annoying-“
Her head appears in the doorway again and another error has been made. She uses her left hand to point to the words of the sentence and mimes switching them round.
Ben swallows and licks his lips. “I mean, she finds all my friends a bit annoying.”
A thumbs up from the kitchen and Deborah disappears again.
“But it’s a lot better now,” he continues. “In the beginning she only used delayed correction. Sometimes I had to wait days to find out what I’d done wrong.”